The tattoo was probably a lie, but just like Abby said: she wasn't a snob.
Tim, admittedly less wild than her usual type, appeared to be smart, and intellect always attracted her. He called her a couple of times, but it wasn't until they Skyped that he asked her on a date, stammering, backing out almost before she even had a chance to answer. Abby found him so sweet and funny that she simply couldn't say no. He also had a voice that crept right under her skin, making her go tingly all over, and if that was an indicator of what else he could do to her . . . well, there was nothing wrong with a nice hook-up, if romance didn't work.
When Tim picked her up in the lab, she was so nervous that out of impulse she gave him a peck on the cheek before even saying “Hi.” Great, Abs, put the kibosh on it the minute you meet, she scolded herself. When he smiled, hugging her briefly in response, she thought she hadn't screwed it up just yet.
On the way to the parking lot, Abby noticed Tim's helpless fumbling—with his tie, the car keys, even his words—and her own nervousness faded fast.
He'd chosen a restaurant that, as she concluded, reflected his personality: neat, reasonable, and modest, but unfortunately missing the mark of awesome by just an inch. She wasn't exactly disappointed, but she was. Tim's constant tension couldn't tear down his fortress of cuteness, but it was very capable of taking away most of his intelligence and, sadly, his sex appeal went down with it.
It was a shame, especially since Abby had looked forward to meeting the crush she'd been harboring. No such luck: as sweet as Tim was, he failed miserably at giving her that special excitement she needed. To see one after the other of her hopes pop like soap bubbles with every minute the clocked ticked away was almost unbearable.
When they returned to headquarters, Abby's heart was low. Suppressing a heavy sigh, she rested her hand on his cheek, cutting off his this was fun talk.
She inclined her head. “You're cute, McGee, and I really, really, like you. But, quite honestly . . . I don't think you and I would be a good idea.”
Tim looked as if she'd slapped him, but then he squared his shoulders and nodded, the sadness on his face fading slowly. “Well, at least we found out that much, I guess,” he said, his voice strangely choked.
“We can be friends.” Abby wanted to bite off her tongue for letting that cheesy cliché slip out, but it couldn't be unsaid, and Tim couldn't be un-hurt.
~ ~ ~
It took all his courage to ask Abby out, but while he was still trying to force his vocal chords into producing somewhat coherent words, he felt said courage leave him completely. Tim called himself a fool for believing someone as classy—in an unconventional way, but still classy—as Abby Sciuto would even consider going out with a geek like him. When she immediately accepted, his heart couldn’t stop somersaulting.
Tony accompanied him to the elevator. Tim expected to be teased, but he was prepared, and very determined not to let anyone take this away from him. He was having a date with the most interesting person he'd ever met, only online so far, but that applied to more than half the people he knew, and boy, his self-esteem was high.
“Abby's not your type.”
“I'd like to find out for myself.”
“Listen, kid. I don't wanna hurt your feelings, but you're not exactly Abby's type.”
“I've taken care of that. Remember that urge you were talking about? Went with 'Mom.'”
Leaving Tony behind speechless felt insanely satisfying. The tattoo was a lie, of course, but he hoped Abby would be true to her word and not be snobbish about it.
As soon as the elevator doors opened again, Tim felt his heartbeat quicken. His palms became awkwardly sweaty, and he could swear his own tie was trying to strangle him. He loosened the knot a tiny bit, but breathing was still impossible.
What was I thinking? he cursed himself, and then, there she was: beautiful, smiling, smelling like fresh fruit and cinnamon as she leaned in to give him a peck on the cheek.
Tim lost his speech at the sight, lost his heart to her air of kindness. There was nothing he could do; the moment he saw Abby in person, he was head over heels in love with her.
His nervousness doubled on the way to the car, then tripled when he became aware that he had to focus much harder to get at least one full, coherent sentence together, but her eyes were so captivating, drawing him in again and again. The more he struggled to act less like a teenager with his first crush, the more he adopted that behavior.
It didn't occur to him that he screwed up completely until, back at headquarters, she interrupted him, saying, “You're cute, McGee, and I really like you. But, quite honestly . . . I don't think you and I would be a good idea.” The hand she'd placed on his cheek couldn't soothe the pain her words caused. His mind raced; he was torn between feeling stabbed right in the heart and accepting her decision with as much dignity as he could muster.
“Well, at least we found out that much, I guess,” he replied, relieved that his voice, although cracking, didn't fail him.
“We can be friends.”
“I don't think so.”
“Tim . . .”
He took a step back, shaking his head. “It's okay. I understand.”
~ ~ ~
If Abby was surprised that Tim called her two weeks later, she didn't show it. He seemed relaxed, much like his usual phone-self, and it was a real weight off her mind that they could talk for a long time without the intermezzi of embarrassing silence; she'd meant that friendship offer, and she did like him, after all.
There were more phone calls after that, some video chats, more calls, and at some point, Abby had completely forgotten why on earth she wasn't seeing this man. It wasn't the thought of I was stupid not to give him another chance, not at all. She really couldn't remember what had been the problem. Tim was everything she needed, and there was no explanation, no excuse, not to want to be with him. Except maybe the approximately 200 miles that lay between them, but distance was not something that couldn't be overcome.
~ ~ ~
When he returned to Norfolk that semi-disastrous day of his date with Abby, Tim felt crushed and heartbroken like never before. Maybe, he thought, if he'd only asked for it, she would've given him a second chance, but no matter the fact he would singlehandedly amputate one of his legs for it, he still had some pride and was not willing to humiliate himself that much.
It took him a while to get over it enough to start analyzing the whole incident, but as soon as his mind was back to working precisely, he could pick up the pieces of his heart and glue them back together. When that was done, and Tim was still positive he never wanted someone more than Abby, he started planning.
He had to put the phone down twice in mid-dialing until he managed to keep his cool enough to get it over with, and he was much surprised at how easy he found it to appear calm once they were talking, even though his heart was beating in his throat.
Patience was a virtue; if Tim learned one thing from his father, then this was it, and as time went by with he and Abby growing a decent friendship over the phone and Internet, he knew he'd chosen the right way.
When he showed up at her lab out of the blue, she flew into his arms, making his whole body shiver with the sweetness of her warmth.
“McGee. What are you doing here?”
“I missed you,” he said point-blank, not the tiniest hint of insecurity in his voice. “Thought we might have Valentine's Day dinner together.”
The smile she gave him was equally mischievous and sincere. “Valentine's is weeks away.”
“I'm not waiting that long.”
In the end, it didn't matter what had been wrong at first. All that mattered was that Abby and Tim, somehow, against all prior expectations, became a unit whose bonds could never be torn.